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Modern American Social Problems

Immigrants in the American society

It is estimated by the United States Census Bureau that most of the immigrants in the United States (almost half of them) reside in big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Miami, or Chicago (“United States Population Clock”, par. 1). The large amounts of people in these areas put enormous pressure on the social and natural environment surrounding them and on the economic income distribution. This is because immigrants and illegal aliens put pressure on the market by influencing the rise of education and health care costs. Another effect is the influencing of the pay-per-hour amount in the job market (of course by decreasing it) and so competing with citizens. But by doing so immigrants themselves have low-income earnings and thus having difficulties in fulfilling their needs. They do not have the same consuming power as the rest of the people living in the United States. So immigrants are more endangered by poverty as a category than the other part of our society. In the United States, the Census Bureau (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) in the 2008 release of “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007” report acknowledges that:

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“In 2007, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 9.8 percent and 7.6 million.” (“U.S. Census Bureau Press Release”, par. 6).

And from these people that were in poverty, the rate of non-US citizens, which means immigrants, in poverty is:

“Among the foreign-born population, the poverty rate and the number in poverty increased to 16.5 percent and 6.2 million, respectively, in 2007, from 15.2 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in 2006. An increase in poverty for U.S. noncitizens (from 19.0 percent in 2006 to 21.3 percent in 2007) accounted for the rise in poverty for the foreign-born population overall.” U.S. Census Bureau Press Release”, par. 12)

Relation between business, technology, and the people

Every company, corporate, or even small firm, has as its objective to increase earnings. One way of doing this is by cutting costs. The other is by gaining a large share of the market and by doing so appealing to more consumers. Most businesses have developed a “research & development” sector. For example, the alliance with technology with businesses that manufacture goods and/or offer services can lead to large margins for corporations if they are successful in bringing new products to market, and can serve as a source of strong competitive advantage for the best practitioners of “research & development”. These businesses use the technology to maximize their use and utilization of the natural resources, basically needed to manufacture goods and even offer services. The other factor businesses are using to cut costs is by employing large numbers of the immigrant workforce. This helps businesses lower salaries. Here the “profit” is for both parts. Immigrants find work and have a source of income; business finds a cheap working force and by doing so cuts its costs. But as you can see from the statistics given above the profit on the part of the immigrants is not that effective. They gain not enough to help them fulfill all of their needs so still considerable parts of the immigrant communities are in poverty. Another problem relating to communities, business, and technology is that by trying to maximize the utilization of natural resources we are putting ever-rising pressure on the environment. Thus we cause environmental stress. It is the interaction between technology, social systems, and the environment. From this interaction air and water pollution are produced, along with problems of solid-waste disposal and other hazards (“Business failure pathways: environmental stress and organizational response”, par. 4).

Cultural lag

These relations between different institutions of society (being social or economic) and technology have been studied by many scholars. One scholar, William F. Ogburn, advanced a theory in which he tries to explain the relationship between different institutions in society and technological advancements. He called it the “cultural lag” theory:

“It suggests that there is a gap between the technical development of a society and its moral and legal institutions. The failure of the latter to keep pace with the former is said, in certain societies, to explain (at least some) social conflict and problems.” (Marshall, 1998: pg. 14).

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This theory suggests that social institutions and technology keep adjusting and readjusting to each other but there are times that one (mostly technology) changes radically and a lag develops. This lag is the cause of tensions between these parts of the culture. In our case, it can be seen as the cause of the lack of social responsibility by businesses in the last century. It can be argued that business keeps up with technology improvements faster than other social institutions by providing financing for new inventions that provide ways of cost cuts or profit increase. But nowadays the rising awareness of the population has “forced” businesses to invest in more “socially responsible technology”. That is the technology that does as little harm to the environment as possible. There are trends in researching and developing alternative fuel efficiencies for example. Some businesses are committed to social responsibility as much as profit increases. Ben & jerry’s Homemade Inc. is an example of this (“our Mission Statement”, par. 1 & 3). So, the interrelation between people, technology, and business is a dynamic one. I think that these days it is changing in favor of the people than of business. Technology that once was used primarily to increase the profits of businesses now is used in a more respectable way toward the environment. Unfortunately, the immigrant part of the society still is being marginalized and it is “used” by businesses to lower wages and so cut businesses costs. Let’s hope this will also change in the future.

References

  1. Marshall, Gordon. (1998). A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  2. (2008). Population Clocks. U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. (2008). U.S. Census Bureau Press Release. U.S. Census Bureau.
  4. Moulton, Wilbur. Thomas, Howard. Pruett, Mark. (1996). Business failure pathways: environmental stress and organizational response. Journal of Management.
  5. (2008). Our Mission Statement. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.

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